No dream is too big to dare and no mountain is too high to climb. Experience and relive FindingLife on Mt. Everest. A 13-Part webseries Shot, edited, directed and produced by Elia Saikaly on the journey to the top of the world! 130 schools and over 20, 000 Canadian students followed his expedition daily via his not for profit organization www.findinglife.caRead More »
Have you ever found yourself asking the question “ I wonder if there
is something more out there for me?” Unsettled or unsatisfied with
your current reality? Constantly feeling as though there is higher
calling, some other path that you could travel, perhaps a more
meaningful reality that you could one day refer to as the adventure
known as ‘your life’?
I remember when it happened to me. It was my very first trip to the
Himalayas. At the time, I was 26 years-old and I was running a video
production company called Reel Concepts.
I had invested 4 years of my life in the business and built it from the ground up. I had my
employees, I was making very good money and I had an impressive list
of clients in the nation’s capital – my home in Ottawa, Canada. Yet
somehow, I felt as though there was something missing.
I’d pursued a career as a musician, actor, model, film-maker and
entrepreneur. Each pursuit was in its own right an invaluable life
experience filled with triumph and failure, both of which shape us all
into the individuals we are today. A decade of commitment to my craft
as a filmmaker led me to being asked by a television producer to
embark on a journey that would forever change my life.
With 2 weeks notice, and absolutely ZERO experience in the outdoors
(including sleeping in a tent!) I found myself in the foothills of the
highest mountain on planet Earth as a cameraman filming an expedition
up the world’s tallest mountain. Life presented an opportunity for me
to explore and I took a leap of faith, trusted the universe and
literally dove off the cliff. I shared the news with my staff and was
on my way into the complete unknown.
I remember being at Everest basecamp in 2005, at an altitude of 17,
500ft above sea level in Nepal. For 2 months it is considered to be
one the highest inhabited places on Earth. Sleeping in a yellow tent
on a glacier that moves at the rate of one meter per day wasn’t
exactly within my comfort zone! The 360 degree panoramic view of the
Himalayas literally took my breath away! However, what truly inspired
me the most were the stories of the people I met. Stories of
adventure! Jungles, deserts and mountains. Experiences that these
climbers, both men and women, had lived that were comparable to a
perfectly scripted Hollywood film. It couldn’t possibly be real life,
could it? My imagination was running wild and being the dreamer that I
am, I wondered whether it would be possible to change my own reality
and live these kinds of adventures. The words that proceeded to come
of out mouth forever changed my life. “I want this. This is going to
become my reality”. I was prepared to do whatever it would take to
reshape my entire life.
Inspired by the simplistic lives of the beautiful people of Nepal, I
decided to simplify my life. I sold my brand new car, my condo, I shut
down my business, cashed in my life savings, borrowed tens of
thousands of dollars and began reshaping my life and career – I wanted
to become an adventure filmmaker and travel the world while making a
difference. I was 26, filled with passion and I was relentless. I
decided to invest everything I had in this little project called
For 6 years I embarked on journey after journey, 5 Himalayan
expeditions, 5 of the seven summits on 5 continents, deserts, oceans,
jungles and beyond. Film after film, experience after experience,
financial investment after financial investment, doing whatever was
necessary to pursue my dream. My life became a series of humbling
experiences, from ‘failure’ to reach summits, not being able to pay my
rent, moving back home with my parents and at times barely able to buy
groceries to feed myself. But every experience, whether positive or
less positive, served as a lesson I could learn from – these lessons
are the experiences of our lives that shape us into who we are. I
learned to embrace them all.
In time… it all paid off. The dream that I had, that few understood
has taken me to the far ends of the Earth and has evolved into a non
profit organization that is truly changing people’s lives. A day
doesn’t go by that I don’t express my sincerest gratitude for being in
the position that I am today.
As Westerners, many of us tend to get caught up in a material world,
we conform to the status quo and we become who others believe we need
to be. We lose the passion and excitement for what it is to live this
incredible gift we’ve all be given called life. We make life decisions
and accept that we cannot change our current reality. The truth is
that we always have a choice. It’s easy to forget that what truly
matters is being happy in life and often that begins with tuning into
what our hearts are really trying to tell us. It can be a terrifying
experience listening to what your heart craves, whether that ‘crazy’
idea or that wildest dream, but let me tell you, the day that you
listen to that inner voice and follow your greatest passion and take
all the right steps in making it your reality, trust me when I say,
you’ll never look back. Be courageous, be inspired, and act.
“Your life, is your adventure.”
No dream is too big to dare and no mountain is too high to climb. Experience FindingLife on Mt. Everest. A 13-Part webseries produced on the journey to the top of the world! 130 schools and over 20, 000 Canadian students followed daily via social media websites, Skype through www.findinglife.caRead More »
At a time filled with New Year’s resolutions, the pressure is on to be the best we can be. To achieve all that we dream. Whether losing a few pounds, getting that new job, training for that marathon or even climbing that mountain. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that may help you reach your New Year’s goals.Read More »
Finding Life has had a profound impact on St. Greg’s this year. It started with a challenge, Elia told our students about his personal challenge to climb Mount Cho Oyu in the Himalayas. This was his challenge, then he asked, “what’s yours?”
That was all that it took. Before the school year even started, our teachers embraced Elia’s call. A huge mural was painted in one of our hallways ready for the first day of school. After the first week of school, we held an assembly to introduce the Cho Oyu Challenge to our students. The teachers came up with the idea of dressing up as climbers, complete with ropes and climbing helmets. We all entered the gym to the music of Chariots of Fire. Then we showed one of the early video posts from Elia.
The kids were caught up right from the beginning. Here was this young adventurer talking about the importance of setting goals and being true to oneself. The message resonated with our students and the adventure began.
Soon, we had our Challenge Cup. Classes could ‘win’ the cup by displaying Challenge Acts that were set for the school during regular assemblies. The challenge might be showing kindness to others or caring for the environment.
At this point, every class has been awarded the Challenge Cup at least once. Every time the cup is awarded you can hear the cheers rise up from the winning class. It has really been wonderful to see how important the challenge has become for all of us.
As Elia’s adventure continued throughout the fall, we followed right along. We sat as a school and watched as Elia related the story of the evacuation of his friend Kheiry. We watched as he told us about the mishap that almost cost him the summit. The story was all the more dramatic because of Elia’s unique gift for capturing the moment. While he struggled up the mountain, he filmed the ascent, wrote about the struggle and even answered letters written by some of our students!
We celebrated with Elia when he reached the summit. We felt we were part of his team in some way. At any time, kids would simply ask “when is Elia” coming to visit. It was a simple assumption that soon, Elia would come to meet the students and teachers who had journeyed with him.
Last week, Elia visited our school. He spoke to all our kids for almost an hour. He mesmerized his audience. Parents, students and staff were again caught up in the adventure. When he mounted a ladder to show how he climbed at Everest we were all there with him, the gym was silent, caught up in the moment.
Later, Elia met with our junior students. He was supposed to stay for twenty minutes; he stayed for up to an hour. He took questions from the kids and teachers. Most importantly, I think, he encouraged everyone to stick to their dreams, not to shy away from the challenge.
We have all been touched by our association with Finding Life. We all need dreams and challenges; it is what brings us to life. Elia and Finding Life are now part of what makes the St. Gregory school community unique and vital. Thanks to Elia for taking us on the journey!
Written by Paul McGuire
Principal at St-Greg’s in OttawaRead More »
The story of how one Ottawa school came together to raise money for children in Kenya. Our FindingLife Expeditions and campaigns unite and bring entire schools together in the spirit of giving and working together to help other people.Read More »